top of page
  • Ella Noonan

Street Style, Hip-hop & Dapper Dan

Flicking through issue 15 of High Snobiety (inevitably bought when my loan first dropped and I wrongly thought £10 on a magazine was socially acceptable) there is an evident link between luxury fashion and the music industry. The cover alone is an elegantly striking image of rapper Future, wearing a delicately embroidered, pale blue, denim jacket. To the right top hand corner of this portrait, names of current designers, actors, and music artists are listed to suggest their features inside the magazine; "Gucci Mane & Playboi Carti, Alaxander Wang, Maisie Williams, Tinashe, Jaden Smith". An article inside that particularly caught my attention was titled "From Harlem to the World - Dapper Dan & A$AP Ferg" written by Jian DeLon, featuring photography by Thomas Welch.

The article discusses 80's hip hop fashion, specifically the man who acted as one of the key innovators in the amalgamation of street style and high fashion- Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan. To give a brief overview as to who he is, Day opened 'Dapper Dan's Boutique' in Harlem and would dress the big names of Rap/Hip-hop in the 1980's. Combining luxury brands (e,g. Gucci, Louis Vuitton) with loose fitting silhouettes, Day was providing the people of Harlem with style that hadn't previously existed. They wanted the prestige of the wealth and life style associated with these logos but in the fit and shape of what young people in Harlem were wearing at the time.

I went on to research further into his work, looking online at images of the outfits he created and watching the 2015 documentary 'Fresh Dressed' which is mentioned in the article.

It covers the origins of hip-hop style, how gang-wars in the Bronx lead to it being coined as the 'arson capital of the world' as it was a time of violence and destruction. These gangs had their own way of dressing,they wore heavily customised jackets with their names or their gangs names and all sorts of embellishments and distressed materials to make them unique and stand out. The rise of gang warfare and violence lead to chaos which inevitably ended in bloodshed - in 1971 a peacemaker from the 'Ghetto brothers' named Benjamin Cornell AKA Black Benji, tried to intervene 2 gangs but ended up being beaten to death by them both. His death lead to a truce being held to try and put a stop to this violence once and for all. Gang rivalry then developed a new form, violence was traded for music and gangs would battle using words and lyrics, thus came the birth of rap. The documentary goes on to explain how the fashion became more refined but still showed strong links in the sense their jackets would have their crews names printed on. This then lead to the prominence of B-Boy style in hip-hop culture; lose fitting trousers/sweatpants, trainers, vests, with caps and chains to accessorise.

Style and hip-hop became intertwined, and as rap music became more recognised, the fashion that went with it became more sought after. This is where Day's designs came in. There was a need for clothing that spoke to the people of Harlem the same way the music did. Not only were the cuts and styles of the clothes made by the big brands not suited to the music scene, they often didn't actually cater to larger sizes. This meant there was a gap in a the market, a baggy fitting, logo emblazoned gap, ready to be filled. It wasn't long bfore his designs spread like wildfire, he dressed everyone who was anyone in the hip-hop scene at the time, from LL Cool J to Salt-n-Pepa. His sore also offered an un-pretentiousness that the designer stores lacked; despite having the funds to buy the real garments, the 80's was still a time heavily weighted in racial predjudice so there was a fear of being judged.

However all this exposure came with a price, in 1992 Day's shop was raided by the police and shut down due to copyright infringement. It seems unjust that someone who had such an influence on anentire genre of fashion would then be sued but then at the same time you can't just take credit for someone elses brand. Although it made sense for himtonot get off scott free, there should have been more recognition at the time for the impact he'd made.This point is reiterated by the rapper Nas who goes on to say "Dapper Dan was Tom Ford before Tom Ford. He shoulda been hired instead of shut down, he really should have been hired as a designer by those elite brands." His work was appreciated and loved by those that wore it however belittled and pushed out by the major fashion houses.

Fast forward to this year and unbelievably it was then the major fashion houses who were 'inspired' by Day's designs. During Gucci's 2018 spring Resort collection, a fur lined, balloon sleeved jacket graced the runway and it didn't go unnoticed that it bared an uncanny resemblance to the Louis Vuitton printed jacket, Day designed for athlete Diane Dixon in 1989.

Unsurprisingly it didn't take long for these images to circulate over the internet and cause a stir. It's impossible to ignore the irony of it all; the man who was sued for ripping off designs has now been ripped off. However Gucci's creative director Alessandro Michele did respond in saying that he was paying homage to his design. Absolute nonsense if you ask me but of course that's a matter of opinion, I'm just saying If this was the case then where exactly is his credit,?Why were they paying silent homage to him? Why was there literally no mention of the man they were paying homage to until they were called out? So many questions. Fortunately for Day, Gucci have now confirmed a collaboration with him, as well as to help fund him in re-opening his boutique. Personally I (I'm sure along with many others), feel that this is just a means of covering their own backs for their earlier faux pas, however I guess beggars can't be choosers and I should just be content with the fact he's finally being recognised beyond his loyal clientele.

bottom of page